Medical Examiner Menu

Medical Examiner

Picture of Medical Examiners Office

MICHAEL J. CAPLAN, M.D
Chief Medical Examiner

DONNA RUPPENTHAL
Director of Operations

ROBERT M. GOLDEN, RPA-C
Supervisor Medical Forensic Investigations

DEPUTY MEDICAL EXAMINERS
STEPHANIE A. HOROWITZ, M.D.
AARON J. ROSEN, M.D.
PAUL MELLEN, M.D.
ODETTE HALL, M.D.
RUTH KOHLMEIER, M.D.

LABORATORY DIRECTORS
MICHAEL LEHRER, PhD – TOXICOLOGY
ROBERT GENNA – CRIME LABORATORY

SIDNEY B. WEINBERG
FORENSIC SCIENCES BLDG. #487
725 VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HIGHWAY
HAUPPAUGE, NY 11787-4311

MAILING ADDRESS
P.O. BOX 6100
HAUPPAUGE, NY 11788-0099

TELEPHONE 1-(631)-853-5555
TELECOPIER 1-(631)-853-4673

From the West
Take Northern State Parkway East until is ends at Veterans Memorial Highway (Route 454)  
At second traffic light (Old Willets Path) make a left turn, County complex is on the right.  

From the East  
Take L.I.E. to exit 57, Veterans Memorial Highway (Route 454)  
Go West on Route 454 for 2.5 miles, make a right turn into the County Complex.

The Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner Department is an 85,000 square foot facility physically located in Hauppauge in the North County Complex off of Veterans Memorial Highway. The Division is comprised of the Medical Forensic, Toxicology, and Crime Laboratory Sections. The Public and Environmental Health Laboratory is housed in the same facility, but under the administration of the Division of Environmental Quality.

The Medical Forensic Section investigates about 4500 deaths per year and performs about 900 autopsies per year. The Forensic Medical Investigators are all Registered Physician Assistants, and the Pathologists are fulltime Medical Examiners.

Michael Lehrer, Ph.D, directs the Toxicology Section. This state-of-the-art laboratory performs analysis in all three areas of forensic toxicology: post-mortem, human performance, and forensic drug testing. Specimens are analyzed for law enforcement agencies, Drug Court, DWI Program, drug facilitated sexual assault, the Probation department, and the Methadone Maintenance Program.

The Crime Laboratory is under the direction of Robert Genna. This is a state-of-the-art laboratory that has Serology/DNA, Firearms, Arson, Trace Evidence, and other laboratories to analyze evidence submitted by law enforcement agencies.

Reportable Cases
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By law, the Medical Examiner must be notified of any death which occurs suddenly and unexpectedly while the victim is in apparent good health, or whenever there is a suspicion that the death may be unnatural. Also reportable are deaths which occur in the workplace, and possible cases of public health interest (e.g. suspected but undiagnosed tuberculosis, meningococcemia, anthrax, tuleremia, etc.).
The types of deaths to be reported to the Medical Examiner include:
  • All forms of suspected criminal violence, from an unlawful act, or from criminal neglect (e.g. starvation of an infant)
  • All accidents
  • All on-road or off-road motor vehicle fatalities
  • All suicides
  • All deaths in which there is a contribution from an overdose or toxic reaction to a drug (including cocaine-induced cardiovascular catastrophes)
  • All deaths suspicious for poisoning (e.g. carbon monoxide, industrial toxins, heavy metal poisoning, etc.)
  • Sudden death of a person in apparent good health
  • Deaths which occur unattended by a physician and where no physician can be found to certify the cause of death; in this context, “unattended by a physician” shall mean not visited or treated by a physician within the ten days immediately preceding death
  • Deaths which may constitute a threat to public health
  • Deaths due to disease, injury, or toxic agent resulting from employment
  • Deaths which occur in public hospitals and other institutions, including but not limited to, the county jail. This category also includes any person whose injury or terminal illness occurred or had onset in a public institution or while in detention in spite of an interval of treatment at another hospital prior to death
  • Deaths involving wards of the state residing in state facilities or state administered homes.
  • Any death occurring in police custody, or during an attempted arrest
  • Deaths which occur during diagnostic or therapeutic procedures or from complications of such procedures
  • When a fetus is born dead in the absence of a physician or midwife. Stillbirths in the hospital need not be reported to this office unless there is a history of maternal trauma or the case has some other unusual or suspicious circumstance. Neonatal deaths from prematurity and its complications must be reported if the premature delivery was caused by maternal trauma
  • When there is an intent to cremate or dispose of a dead body in any fashion other than interment in a cemetery
  • Dead bodies brought into the county without proper medical certification
  • Deaths which occur in any suspicious or unusual manner
Time Of Injury Vs Time Of Death
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For the Medical Examiner, the time interval between an injury and the death is of no consequence. For example, a person dying from the complications of traumatic quadri-plegia 20 years after a neck injury must still be reported to the Medical Examiner.

Hospital deaths from natural causes in which a definite diagnosis has been made, despite the fact that the patient survived less than 24 hours, need not be reported to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Procedures For Reporting Deaths
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Deaths should be reported promptly to avoid delays in official investigations.

To report a death
Call the medical examiners office (631) 853-5555, 7 days a week, 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Call SCPD at (631) 852-6410 from 11:00 PM to 7:00AM, 7 days a week

The following information will be requested of the person reporting the death:

  • Name of deceased, date of birth, age, sex, race or ethnicity, and marital status.
  • Home address
  • Social security number
  • Place removed from (if hospital reporting) or current location of dead body
  • Place of death
  • Date and time of arrival in hospital
  • Pronounced dead by
  • Date and Time
  • Name and telephone number of attending physician
  • Reason for reporting death (history and circumstances)
  • Reminder: Has the New York Organ Donor Network been contacted?
  • Has admission, particularly pre-transfusion, blood samples been placed on hold in your laboratory?
Autopsy Policy
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It is the policy of the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner to perform an autopsy on all cases coming under its jurisdiction (exception: persons dying from complications of an accidental hip fracture are not routinely autopsied). However, we are aware that family members, for personal or religious reasons, may object to an autopsy being performed on their loved one. Under such circumstances, the Medical Examiner staff will discuss the situation with the family after a review of all available information, including medical records and police reports. If there is sufficient documentation to substantiate the cause and manner of death, the autopsy may be averted if the family so desires. Alternatively, if there is a strong compelling reason to perform an autopsy (e.g. homicide or suspicion of homicide), the Medical Examiner may seek a court order for the autopsy. Fortunately, this situation is quite unusual.

The decision as to whether an autopsy is to be performed is, by statute, a Medical Examiner decision. Hospital personnel should therefore not request permission for an autopsy. If the family inquires about an autopsy, they should be referred to Medical Examiner personnel. If the family expresses any opinion about an autopsy (e.g. they do or do not want an autopsy performed), please apprise the Medical Examiner staff of the family’s wishes.
Notes and Definitions for Physicians
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  1. Cause, Mechanism, and Manner of Death:
    1. The cause of death is the disease or injury responsible for initiating the lethal sequence of events. A competent cause of death is etiologically specific.
    2. The mechanism of death is the altered physiology and biochemistry whereby the cause exerts its lethal effect. Mechanisms of death lack etiologic specificity and are unacceptable as substitutes for causes of death. Common mechanisms of death include congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, asphyxia, sepsis, exsanguination, renal failure, and hepatic failure. The term “cardio-respiratory arrest” is meaningless for purposes of death certification; it is a description of being dead, not a cause of death.
    3. The manner of death explains how the cause arose: natural, accident, homicide, or suicide. Natural deaths are defined as those that are caused exclusively by disease; accidental deaths result from an environmental tragedy (e.g. struck by lightning).
  2. Proximate vs Immediate Cause of Death: The underlying or PROXIMATE cause of death is that event which initiates an expected, foreseeable and unbroken series of ultimately fatal physiologic disturbances. It is of no concern how long before death this event occurred. Of importance is that an unrelated event (independent supervening factor) did not occur which initiated a fatal response independent of the event identified earlier. Immediate causes of death are complications and sequelae of the underlying cause. There may be one or more immediate causes, and they may occur over a prolonged interval, but none absolves the underlying cause of its ultimate responsibility. For example, a man sustains a transabdominal gunshot wound with perforation of the colon. In spite of treatment over a period of three months, he develops peritonitis, septicemia, disseminated intravascular coagulation, hepatic and renal failure, bronchopneumonia, and the adult respiratory distress syndrome. The gunshot wound is still the underlying or proximate cause of death, and such a fatality must be reported to the Office of the Medical Examiner.
  3. In instances of suspected poisoning or drug overdose, it is essential that samples of blood, urine, and gastric lavage, obtained at or about the time of admission to the hospital, be retained for appropriate chemical testing. Any potential Medical Examiner case should have all submission samples retained.
  4. All indwelling tubes, intravascular catheters, and drains should remain undisturbed in situ following the death of a person who is a Medical Examiner case.
  5. Complications of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures: It is recognized that any diagnostic or therapeutic procedure has attendant risks. Generally, a known and recognized complication will not be a Medical Examiner case. Fatal complications that are not expected or are likely completely preventable would come under the ME jurisdiction.
To Obtain a Copy of the Medical Examiner's Report
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If you are the legal next-of-kin and want a copy of the Medical Examiner's Report, please send a brief note, including name of deceased, date of death, and your relationship to deceased. The address is:
OFFICE OF THE MEDICAL EXAMINER
BLDG. 487 William J. Lindsay County Complex
HAUPPAUGE, NEW YORK 11787-4311
When the Report is completed, it will be sent to you at no charge.

Family members not defined as the immediate legal next-of-kin may request a copy of the report from the immediate legal next-of-kin or, if necessary, obtain a notarized authorization from that individual allowing them to receive the report.  Written requests from all other individuals must include notarized authorization from the immediate legal next-of-kin along with a check in the amount of $30.00 made payable to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

If the Death Certificate reads "PENDING FURTHER STUDY", please send a brief note requesting a final cause of death including the name of the deceased, date of death, and your relationship to the deceased. When the case has been completed, you will receive from our office a Cause of Death Letter. At that time, you may obtain a copy of the amended death certificate from the Registrar's Office in the town or village where the death occurred.

If a Cause of Death is needed for insurance purposes and the company is unwilling to pay on a policy because of an incomplete Cause of Death, please have a representative of that company call this office and request to speak to the Pathologist who performed the autopsy. In many cases, the insurance company will take a verbal from the Pathologist.
We hope this information will be helpful to you at this difficult time.

Contact Us
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Our Address :

SUFFOLK COUNTY OFFICE OF THE MEDICAL EXAMINER
BLDG. 487 William J. Lindsay County Complex
725 VETERANS MEMORIAL HIGHWAY
HAUPPAUGE, NEW YORK 11787-4311
Our Phone Number:
631-853-5555